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Ironman Arizona 2014 Pre-Race Day --Judy Graham-Garcia, #3213, Final Official Finisher

Background:
I am an Ironman. I earned that title at Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) 2011. I have always been
a marginal athlete, nothing dramatic, just the truth---a slow runner but very experienced
(currently, 56 marathons with personal best of 4.47 in 2008); solid late middle of the pack
swimmer with absolutely no fear of any water; and terrible cyclist. I had breast cancer in
2009 just before I ran the Copenhagen Marathon; I ran it in just over five hours, came home,
had two surgeries, radiation therapy, and trained for the New York City Marathon. I ran New
York five days after I finished radiation---slower, but I finished it. Then I started a long course
of tamoxifen (hormonal) treatment. The day before Ironman Arizona 2014, I took my last dose
of tamoxifen that I had taken faithfully for the past five years to treat and prevent recurrence of
my breast cancer. Very ironic that this last dose fell on the eve of Ironman Arizona 2014--Fast-forward:
I DNFd (did not finish) IMAZ 2012 at mile 11 of the run; I was severely dehydrated after
developing crazy nausea in the swim and could not hydrate and nourish on the bike. I bonked
on the run and began to develop squeezing chest pain that radiated into my jaw. I am a nurse
anesthetist and nurse practitioner (former cardiovascular); I knew I had to stop. That was tough
for me; I never gave up or failed. I developed a redemption plan. I returned to Arizona in
2013, worked in the Swim Medical Tent (as I had in 2011 to get my 2012 IMAZ number), and
registered for the 2014 IMAZ! Now, I just had to train, and, of course, finish this time around.
My big revenge day would be November 16, 2014! (By the way, I never typed up that DNF
race report that I handwritten on the plane trip back from Arizona. It was too painful to revisit,
and it is still behind my couch in a windowsill where I put it when I emptied my backpack in
2012. Maybe when I finish my IMAZ 2014 story, I will cross that path again.)
How I Got to the Point of Becoming the Official Final Finisher of Ironman Arizona 2014:
I registered for Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) 2014 on November 18, 2013, after volunteering and
spectating at IMAZ 2013, and a week of sightseeing and partying with my boyfriend of now six
years, Adam, my son Richie, and our good friend and training buddy, Dan Maguire. Dan and I
both registered for IMAZ 2014. My son would never do an Ironman, though he does enjoy
running, not racing---and Adam will not swim, though he is a very accomplished runner,
duathlete, cyclist, and former USA Cycling coach for over a decade over fifteen years ago.
Adam coached junior cyclists, many of whom became professionals and are now at the top of
their age groups in cycling and triathlon (one of whom built my amazing wheels that Uga
sported at IMAZ 2014!! Justin Spinelli at Luxe Wheelworks, Boston, check him out!). But
Adam cannot coach me---or at least not full time! It just does not work---we have tried.

After our volunteer gig at IMAZ 2013, Dan flew back home to Boston after he and I registered
on that wonderful Monday morning November 18, 2013, and Adam, Richie, and I headed for
Las Vegas. Dan and I actually worked at registration that Monday morning; we registered
ourselves first to get practice registering athletes! Keeping in line with the Vegas theme,
Adam, Richie, and I partied on until, after a crazy night, I decided on the following morning that
I was done with the partying. I had an Ironman to train for, I had one year minus 3 days to
train for it, I just threw down over $700 to pay for that Ironman bib number, and spent another
few hundred traveling to Arizona to volunteer and get that number. So I quit drinking, just like
that. No booze as of November 21, 2013---I had also gained about thirty pounds since my
DNF at IMAZ 2012, and I had to drop this weight to improve my health and my race times.
Now, before the holidays, was the perfect time to start. I was too borderline on my race finish
times to not try anything to improve and avoid any further chance of a second DNF. I had
always been on a roller coaster with my weight, from a low of 127 pounds after Ironman Lake
Placid in 2011, to a high of 185 pounds after completing my post-Masters certificate in 2002.
Most recently, I had climbed back to 168 pounds.
I hired a coach---Jason from Tri-Hard---and put my new bike, Uga, on the kinetic trainer for
what would become a long, tough, New England winter. Uga was new, a gift, a pretty red and
black Felt tri bike---so named after the University of Georgia mascot bulldawg, Uga. You see, I
am a diehard Clemson fan, and I totally expected an orange and purple bike with white Tiger
Paws---so when I walked into the dining room and saw this sweet bike with a big Happy
Birthday balloon, before I even noticed the bike, I noticed the color. I only had the
opportunity to ride Uga outdoors twice before she made it to the trainer. I loved my old
Cannondale road bike (CADD 8), Trixie, which I bought for myself in 2008. Trixie is an
Ironman---we finished Ironman Lake Placid together in 2011. She is a badass; that is a tough
bike course. Trixie and I also DNFd (did not finish) Ironman Arizona in 2012. I felt like I was
cheating on pretty Trixie with her orange handle bar tape---it once was pink when we
celebrated my breast cancer treatment and recovery. Once that passed, we had to celebrate
the Clemson Tigers and change it to orange.
Prior to hiring Jason as my coach, I referred back to my IMLP training plan on
trainingpeaks.com, but I still felt that I could benefit from a live person to guide me. The last
thing that I wanted was a second DNF at IMAZ. Jason became my coach on December 1,
2013, and I followed his plans to the best of my ability. I also had a personal trainer at the
Ipswich YMCA that helped me significantly with my strength; I retained her from December
through July, when I discontinued her services for personal reasons; unfortunately, because
she was a very good trainer. I did not replace her; it was just too late in the process. My
biggest training obstacle was my work schedule. I loved my job of nine years as a Nurse
Anesthetist (CRNA) in a level I trauma center at Bostons city hospital and at other facilities as
well. I also had a commute---the Boston commute from about 30 miles north---lots of traffic
and lots of time---so I worked 12.5 hour shifts from 7am until 730 pm. What that meant was

that on work days, I did not train. Hypervigilance is essential in my profession, and if I am
awake at 4am to be in the pool or running at 5am, then I am not sleeping much, given that
most work nights, I did not get home before 9pm. So on these work days, training usually did
not happen. As a dear friend, who is a former pro-Ironman (Maryellen Powers), once told me,
it is tough being a weekend warrior. Fortunately, though---maybe---I had a schedule of three
week cycles of shifts---three 12s, three 12s, four 12s, repeat.
If you know anything about an Ironman training schedule, you know that a rest day is
incorporated into the schedule, and it is usually on Monday. With my work schedule, my rest
day would become one of my 12 hour shift days (I would rearrange the training schedule and
move it to a work day if Monday was a day off work for me), and I would try to cram all of my
workouts into my days off. And, somehow, I made it work back in 2011 for IMLP, and again for
my DNF year at IMAZ in 2012. But, this time around, after nine years at my job, I was making
a change to work at a community hospital only nine miles from our house. I would work four
10.5 hour shifts, from 715am until 545pm---perfect---I could ride my bike to work and get that
many more training miles! Wrong---that did not work---the new job that I began on February 3,
2014, did not work out. I missed my job in the city, but I did not want to return to the
commuting. I was miserable at work, making everyone who knew me miserable with my
constant complaining about my new job---but somehow, I was still not drinking, was losing
weight, and training faithfully, determined to reach my goal of finishing Ironman Arizona 2014.
And anyone who knows me knows that it is NOT my nature to be a constant complainer or
emanate negative energy. I have zero tolerance for pessimism, and I will avoid it at all costs.
And that I had to do, more often than not, during this training year.
I decided in the early summer to terminate my relationship with my coach. He was awesome,
but because of work, I just could not take advantage of everything he had to offer. It got to the
point where I felt like I was just getting a training schedule from him that I could get from a
book---and it was my fault, not his, I was the one that was not taking or could not take
advantage of all that he had to offer. It became very tough to write out that check to him every
month. Around this same time, my coworker, who was training for Ironman Maryland,
introduced me to Don Finks book, Be Iron Fit. I decided that I would follow his Intermediate
Training Plan rather than using my old plan on trainingpeaks.com. And his book is full of
awesome information, as well as inspirational material!
I resigned from my job---I had to---I worked with many lovely folks, but I went back to the city
with an anesthesiologist that I had worked with for nine years at my prior job in Boston---now
we were in a surgical center with all orthopedics and sports medicine surgery. It was perfect--lucky for me, a very sweet job with an even sweeter schedule, but unlucky for my bank
account as credentialing was slow, and I wound up unemployed for five weeks in late
August/early September. But ahhhhh, did I ever bond with my new Uga!! We cycled, and
cycled. During this time, I had a professional bike fit with Geoff Hull at FitWerx in Peabody; I
gained a lot of valuable information from Geoff about cycling on a tri bike versus my old road

bike. I had beautiful summertime Boston weather while I was unemployed, and it does not get
much sweeter than that! It was also peak beach season out at Crane Beach, only four miles
away, and even though the ocean temperature never reached more than 65 degrees, it was
perfect for my Ironman Arizona swim training, which would most certainly be in cold water, too!
You never knew what the tides and currents were going to throw at you at Crane, it was
always very exciting!
I love to incorporate races into my training schedule. Adam does not particularly care for this
and often tells me that I race too much. And maybe I do; I am sure any coach would say that I
do. But I know my body, and more importantly, I know my mind. And I know what can help
me get through an ordeal like an Ironman. My plan during the Ironman training season was to
do an early half Ironman, a middle of the way Olympic distance triathlon, and a late season
half Ironman. I also register for every open water swimming (OWS) event that is within driving
distance of my house, and we have quite a few in New England. You cannot simulate
swimming with 3000 other folks in a pool or by swimming alone in the ocean or a lake. For
me, I need the battleground experience that comes with a mass swim start. I also love riding
in metric centuries or century bike rides. There is nothing sweeter than having an organized
bike ride for those long, solo rides. Adam actually rode one of the centuries with me back in
August, and I rode with girlfriends on a couple of metric centuries or shorter rides, but for the
most part, I was out there alone. And I love solo training. I can head out when it works for me,
go where I want, stop when I want. I do not have to worry about anyone bailing on me, cutting
the ride short, or me holding someone back. Sometimes I think that I should ride with faster
cyclists so that I can improve, rather than noodling around, as my guy says. But, thanks to
my awesome three time Ironman friend Michelle Howell Boisvert, I met Sharon Johnson. And
this changed my training in a big way.
Sharon is a world class triathlete and recent age group bronze medalist at the triathlon world
championships. She co-owns a Computraining facility about 25 minutes from our house,
Breakaway, and she is actively involved as a coach. Michelle had told me about her gig back
in the spring but I let it roll off my shoulder as the weather was getting warm enough to cycle
outside. At that time, I also did not realize the value of the Computrainer and coached
sessions. I also think that outdoor cycling is important because on an indoor trainer, it is not
possible to simulate certain conditions like cycling through potholes, crazy wind, rain, and just
the feel and security of handling the bike on the road. So in late August, just less than three
months out from IMAZ, I met with Sharon for an initial assessment. She explained the entire
Computraining process to me, improving pedal stroke and power output. It was a week before
I was to participate in the Pumpkinman Half Ironman, and Sharon was competing at the worlds
in Canada. So we decided that I would come to her twice weekly for coached Computraining
when we both returned. I did Pumpkinman on September 7 and was thrilled to do a 7.45, my
personal best at the half Ironman distance! And I also knew it could have been better if I had
not made a last minute, not well thought through decision, not to wear my wetsuit. The water

was warmer, and I did not want to dehydrate if I got hot, and cramp later. I love swimming
without my wetsuit (I am a transplanted Southern girl of ten years ago---I never swam in a
wetsuit before I moved to New England!) but I had not been training without it this summer on
my long swims; I had been doing all of my long swims in cold ocean. Anyway, I was still
overall pleased with my improvement at the half ironman distance, and I thought that I would
get even stronger with the sessions I had planned with Sharon beginning September 9.
On September 22, 2014, just after I entered the Peak Phase of my Ironman training plan, I
began my new job. Talking about stress---peak training and a new position---but I settled right
in at work and continued my training. I look back at my fitness log, over some of the bike rides
especially, and I think, how I ever got myself out of the house for some of those rides. I trained
alone, primarily. I rode often to a barrier island, Plum Island, to get good wind training and
practice on my aero bars. I would always stop around the 50 mile mark on my way there and
eat a lobster roll at Bob Lobster. My friends joked that they would have to ship lobster to
Arizona for my Bike Special Needs bag!
I continued with my Computrainer sessions, twice weekly, and then once or twice weekly when
I started my new job. Training was going very well. The autumn weather in New England was
cooperating for me to get in my long bike rides. My ocean swims ended around midSeptember, and then in October, I returned to long pool swims, lots of laps, feeling like a gerbil
on a wheel. I did not miss any bike rides; I had to reschedule a couple due to very poor
weather, but I got those miles and hours in. My runs were going well, and the last Sunday in
September, I ran a marathon. Some may say that this was too close to my actual race date,
but for me, I needed that. Then, sometime in October, the Ironman Arizona 2014 bib list was
released. My name was NOT on the list. What a night of panic! And, of course, it was after
5pm when I realized this, so I was unable to reach anyone at World Triathlon Corporation
(WTC) headquarters until the following morning. Fortunately, it was Monday night, and I do
not generally work on Tuesdays, as I did not sleep, not even for five minutes! I knew I had
paid and registered in Tempe last year. I remember vividly coming home and using the code I
was given at registration and going online during the designated period to complete my
registration. I did not know what could have happened. Right away on Tuesday morning, I
spoke with a representative at WTC and I was registered; what I had failed to do was submit
further required information that evidently was requested separately and I had overlooked.
Without that, my registration was incomplete, but I was registered. I cannot imagine training at
the level I trained for almost a year for this race and not getting to compete. Anyway, I was all
set, and my bib number would be assigned to me when I arrived at Athlete Check In in Tempe.
I was excited when my final two weeks before Ironman arrived and my taper began. I focused
on resting and packing. I had a lot of cargo to take with me on this trip; that is the big
disadvantage of doing an Ironman that is not within driving distance. I was scheduled to fly out
to Arizona on Friday, November 7. That was nine days before the race, but I planned to swim
at 4 Peaks Racings Splash n Dash 4000 meter swim and attend an IMAZ specific swim clinic

by wannatri at Tempe Town Lake on November 8. It was not the same swim course as
Ironman, but it was the same lake, and I wanted to get a feel for the water. I also wanted time
to acclimate and to ride one loop of the three loop Ironman bike course. Adam took Uga to
Boston the week I was scheduled to leave and had her race wheels and Gatorskin tires put on;
I rode her and loved the wheels!! (Gatorskins are important in the desert to keep those little
cacti quills that blow all over the road from causing a flat tire!) Later in the week, he
dismantled her, packed her in the box, and I was ready to travel alone on Friday to Phoenix.
Adam had a local race on Saturday morning that he could not miss, and I would pick him up at
the airport that night on Saturday night after my swim.
I arrived in Phoenix as planned on Friday, picked up my rental car and luggage and bike, and
took the bike to Tribe Multisport in Scottsdale for reassembly. I had prearranged the rebuilding
with Tribe weeks prior, and I would pick Uga up on Saturday afternoon following my swim. (By
the way, for those of you flying to Phoenix and renting a car, do NOT rent it at the airport---pick
it up off site; it will be about one third cost). On Sunday Adam and I planned to ride one loop of
the three loop Ironman Arizona bike course, sort of. We would ride from the condo in
Scottsdale, down the bike path, and get onto the course at McDowell Road, approximately at
IMAZ bike mile seven. My primary goal was to cycle the Beeline Highway. Adams family
owned two single speed cruisers that they kept at the condo; Adam would ride one of those!
We headed out in the early afternoon, and began our ride out to McDowell to get on the
course. It was about five miles before we were on the course at McDowell. We went by Alma
School Road, already in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and lo and behold,
what do I see, but two pit bulldogs running out at me, the same house where two dogs ran
after me two years ago during the race! We continued on, and made our turn onto the
Beeline---the famous highway that climbs slightly out through the desert toward Fountain Hills.
At the peak of the climb, about eleven miles out the Beeline, the bike course returns back
down to Tempe. Adam and I stopped briefly at the convenience store on the corner of the
Beeline---we saw other cyclists training on the course, took a couple of pictures, and off we
went up the Beeline.
Adam is a trooper riding that single speed cruiser; it was very exciting as it also was two years
ago when we did the same ride before my DNF race. We had an unremarkable ride out the
Beeline, reached our turnaround point, and headed back down. Adam and I were back and
forth with each other as my bike could descend a lot faster than his. I stopped at a couple of
the canal points and waited and took some funny videos. As we came on down the Beeline,
Adam was just ahead of me when we approached the landfill. We were cycling in the
breakdown lane of a four lane highway, and I noticed a lot of broken glass in the lane. Unable
to avoid the glass because of truck traffic by me, I rode through the glass. Shortly thereafter,
pfffffff---I had my first flat of the entire training year---on my rear Gatorskin that was glued to my
race wheels UGH! There was no way we could change the tire, and Tribe was closed on
Sundays. In retrospect, we should have called AAA, or Adams cousin. But instead, I went to

a spot across the highway at a sand and gravel mine and sat on a concrete pillar with Uga
while Adam cycled back to the condo for the car. We figured he could be back to me in about
an hour, and we had about an hour and a half of daylight. There was a video camera at the
gate where I was sitting, and even though I felt a little scared, I was OK knowing the camera
was there. I stayed on the phone with my youngest daughter and prayed that nobody would
bother my bike, or me. About 45 minutes later, I started really getting scared as the sun was
beginning to set and I called the police. The dispatcher told me I was not in a safe area---I
should have never called, then I would not know this, though I did feel it---they would send an
officer out in a few minutes for a welfare check. But I started walking and pushing Uga---back
toward Tempe and that convenience store at the bottom of the Beeline. I finally reached Adam
via phone and he was headed to get me. I kept walking until he drove up. I was terrified, I
have never been so happy to see him.
The following morning, early on Monday, we took Uga to Tribe. They could get her back to me
on Thursday. It was out of my control. I was without my bike. That was fine. I would run on
Monday afternoon, rest on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we would go to Sedona for the day.
It all worked out, we had a great time in Arizona, and Thursday rolled around. It was the first
day for Athlete Check In at Ironman Arizona!! Check In opened at 9am and we arrived around
1030. We saw Dan Maguire and his wife for a few minutes outside of Montis Restaurant; then
I went to check in.
I received my bib number, 3213, met some folks from my Cactus Buddies group that were
working at registration, picked up all of my registration materials which included a really cool
backpack, then proceeded to shop in the Ironman Store Official Merchandise tent. I bought
several things---beach towel, five shirts that were on sale, one expensive shirt, water bottles,
and hats. Anything else would have to wait until Monday when the finishers apparel was
available. Adam and I then went to grab a bite to eat on Mill Avenue, saw Dan and Evelyn
Maguire, and went with them to the Mandatory Athlete Meeting at 2pm at Tempe Beach Park.
I knew a lot of the spiel before the meeting, but I wanted to hear it again, however, the biggest
thing I took away from the meeting was that the weather report looked perfect for Sunday with
no wind. I hung around after the meeting and met the race director as I wanted to speak to
her about the dogs that had gotten after me two years ago and again on Sunday; I guess there
are no leash laws, who knows, but that was that. We then explored Ironman Village, the Expo,
and the race venue, met some folks from Mississippi, and Augusta, Georgia, (where I lived for
15 years), that were racing, and headed home. My plan was to avoid Ironman Village on
Friday, even the Welcome Ceremony, I just did not want to be over there again until the
Saturday morning practice swim and bike and gear check in.
I picked Uga up from Tribe first thing on Friday morning and rode her for an hour. I could not
get a Gatorskin tire for the rear, but she had a new tire and the mechanics inserted some sort
of tire sealant as well. Early in the afternoon, after my ride, I was sitting in the recliner on my
computer, and I began to feel, all of a sudden, a little congested. I seriously could not believe

it. I did not feel bad at that time, just a little post nasal drip---no sore throat or anything else.
Adam and I have an annual ritual of spending this particular late Friday afternoon in Gilbert,
Arizona, at Freestone Park for the Gilbert Days 5K, One Miler, and Mascot Run. We were
scheduled to leave home by 3pm for Gilbert. Adam always races the 5K and places in his age
group; I was going to jog the one mile this year (my training plan called for a run), and I loved
watching the Mascot Run. As usual, we had a great time at Gilbert, Adam placed age group
third, and we headed home. In the car heading home, I really did not feel well. My heart was
beating fast, and I felt like I had a fever. All of a sudden, I could not breathe at all through my
nose. Great. Off to the pharmacy---I know it is bad, but I bought Afrin nasal spray. I was
desperate to breathe. I did not want to take any decongestants with ephedrine or anything that
would speed up my heart rate. I also began taking Tylenol for the fever, and used ibuprofen
rather than taking my Celebrex. This was crazy---it was less than 36 hours before Ironman,
and I was sick. Two years ago when I DNFd, I had a sinus infection. What luck I have. I had
a five day pack of azithromycin. I knew that my infection was viral---but what if it was not---I
am all about antibiotic compliance, but I was doing an Ironman, and just in case it was not
viral, I could at least get in two doses of antibiotics.
I went to bed and slept, no computer, desperate to heal my body. I contemplated skipping the
practice swim on Saturday morning, but I was so preoccupied with the metal stairs at the swim
exit, I had to go. I also wanted to be there at the Cactus Buddies meet-up. And I eventually
had to go over there anyway to check in my bike and gear. So off Adam and I went, and I
swam, and I learned how to get my butt up onto that bottom step at the swim exit. And I am so
glad I went. I also met many of the Cactus Buddies before the swim and was able to be part of
our group picture. Then we checked in Uga and my Bike Gear Bag and Run Gear Bag. And
we went home. I rested, had dinner, and lay down early. All of a sudden, about twenty four
hours after it all started, I felt better. My heart rate came down, my fever was gone. I was still
congested but at least I FELT better. It was time to sleep and wake up for the big day!